At the tender age of 10, actress Mary Badham was cast in the pivotal role of Scout in the 1962 film adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, "To Kill A Mockingbird." Although, she was not actively seeking a career in Hollywood, it was because director Robert Mulligan was looking for a child who was not an actor, that Badham got the role.
It was not much of a stretch for Badham because like "Scout", Badham was very much a tomboy and a very outspoken little girl. On set, she fought and played with actor Phillip Alford who played her brother, Jem. During the production while Badham was on the foreign land of a California studio lot, Peck along with the rest of the cast and crew became a second family to her. Especially Peck, who became a second father to her.
"He was Atticus," Badham has always said about Peck. She even took to calling him by his character's name throughout their lifelong friendship. It was not only Badham who recognized the resemblance of Peck's integrity and character to Atticus. His daughter Cecilia always spoke fondly of the resemblance as well.
At the time of the film's release, Badham received an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal and she was the youngest actress ever to receive a nomination. Not bad for a little girl who was not the least bit interested in films before being cast. It was Patty Duke who won that night for "The Miracle Worker", but Badham was not disappointed. In fact, she was relieved that she did not have to make a speech because she did not know what she would say. Gregory Peck did win the Best Actor statuette amongst the three Oscars that the film won that night.
The off-screen friendship with Peck extended long after filming was over. Especially later in her life, when Badham last her own father. Peck helped her through the grieving process with phone calls and invited her on trips with his family. Badham and Peck remained close until his passing in 2003.
As for Badham, she retired from acting soon after her Oscar nomination and returned to living a normal life. In 2005, it was at the request of filmmaker Cameron Watson, that she made a cameo in his film "Our Very Own" (2005), but does not intend to return to acting any time soon. She makes occasional appearances for events that surround "To Kill A Mockingbird" to help preserve the legacy of the book and film.